Plan B and past nominee Richard Hawley are joint favourites to win the Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize as the shortlist of 12 was announced for the highly-valued award.
Established acts such as The Maccabees and Field Music will also battle it out against lesser known names and emerging acts such as Django Django and Alt-J who have won critical acclaim.
Rapper Plan B - whose real name is Ben Drew - is the first artist to make the list for a soundtrack album, with Ill Manors, which accompanies the gritty film of the same name which he directed.
Hawley, at 45 the oldest artist on the shortlist, was previously nominated in 2006 for Coles Corner and had been a hot contender, although he lost out to Arctic Monkeys.
When Monkeys frontman Alex Turner collected the prize for his album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, he announced: "Someone call 999 - Richard Hawley's been robbed."
The list fails to recognise notable commercial successes such as Coldplay and Florence + The Machine, as well as Emeli Sande who landed the Critics Choice award at the Brits and has had acclaim and huge sales following her performances at the Olympic ceremonies.
Django Django and Alt-J have built a huge buzz around their debut albums earlier this year, as has fellow nominee Jessie Ware.
Field Music, featuring Sunderland brothers David and Peter Brewis, are nominated for their album, Plumb. As well as their releases together, the pair also each released albums of their own in 2008. Michael Kiwanuka finds himself on the shortlist after being given a boost by topping the BBC's Sound of 2012 list at the start of the year.
The nominations almost invariably include a nod to the worlds of jazz and folk and this year is no exception. Folk is represented by both Sam Lee and Ben Howard, while drum, guitar and sax act the Roller Trio fly the flag for jazz.
The prize gives a huge boost to sales for the victor as well as valuable publicity to all nominees. Simon Frith, the chair of the judging panel, said the shortlist "showcases a wonderful variety of musical voices, emotions and ambitions".